By Ann McCreary
Twisp River Pub owner Aaron Studen said he is in waiting mode while his insurance company completes its fire investigation and obtains bids for reconstruction of the pub, which was severely damaged by an arson fire on Feb. 29.
“It works at a snail’s pace,” Studen said this week.
The insurance company, Mutual of Enumclaw, hired its own investigator in March to conduct an independent investigation of the fire in Twisp. Studen said the fact that the fire has been determined to be arson “is a separate deal, it doesn’t matter at all” in terms of the company paying an insurance claim.
“The only thing that matters with an arson is they need to be confident it wasn’t the owner that did the arson,” Studen said.
Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow, who is conducting a separate investigation into the fire, said he has completed most of his interviews and is waiting for the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory to analyze evidence sent to the lab from the fire scene. That process could take months, Budrow said.
The insurance company has requested bids to determine the cost of rebuilding the pub, Studen said.
“We have probably 15 subcontractors” estimating costs for plumbing, electrical, refrigeration, brewing equipment, sound equipment, dry wall, insulation, floors and painting, he said.
“It requires my involvement because I have the relationship with local contractors. And I have to help them determine what was there,” Studen said.
The cost of rebuilding needs to be established in order to settle an insurance claim, Studen said. He said he is waiting for the insurance issue to be settled before he decides his next steps.
Cleanup of the building is also on hold, Studen said. “I can’t afford to spend money on it. I’m waiting for the insurance to come through so we can tackle it.”
Studen said there is one positive outcome of the fire — he was able to salvage most of the beer that was stored at the pub.
“It was in insulated stainless steel containers … not exposed to smoke because they were sealed up. We were able to keep it cold because the fire happened in February,” he said.
More than 100 kegs are in a refrigerated off-site storage facility and are available for weddings or parties this summer, Studen said.
He said he plans to keep his state liquor license current because it allows him to continue selling beer, “and if we do rebuild, we don’t have to go through the licensing process again.”
The pub fire destroyed the office and kitchen areas at the back of the building and caused severe smoke damage throughout the restaurant. Investigators said they found evidence of arson, including rags soaked with an accelerant, in the building.
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to arrest and/or conviction in connection with the fire. The reward is offered by the Arson Alarm Foundation and more information is available by calling the Twisp Police Department at 997-6112.